Updated: Oct 5, 2021
What is a leader? How do you know you are a good one? How do you learn to be a true leader? In this article, Rimi Chakraborty shares her story of emerging as a leader and her definition of a true leader.
“Good Morning”, I said as I sped past my colleagues huddled around the water cooler. It was my first morning as manager, and 26 years old at the time, I was a good 10 years younger than my colleagues. From what I could gather from their grim responses and hushed conversations they weren’t exactly thrilled that I was now their “leader”.
I had been promoted for my stellar performance as an environmental insurance underwriter for AIG, and I had uprooted my life from New York City to Boston as the company invited me to breathe some life back into a region that had been falling behind. But in those first few weeks, the promotion felt more like a curse than a well-deserved reward. I could feel the resentment in the looks of my colleagues.
I found myself questioning whether I could truly be a Leader.
Now, nearly 15 years later, after an MBA at the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, running a management consulting practice, and leaving everything I knew to start a boutique travel business in the Azores, Portugal, I have no doubt about being a leader.
1. A leader is someone who follows his or her purpose and serves selflessly for the greater good.
Let me say that again: A leader is someone who follows his or her purpose and serves selflessly for the greater good, inspiring others along the way. Let’s break that down a bit.
2. A leader is someone who follows his or her purpose…
What is the purpose? Do you know yours? How do you know whether you are living and leading in alignment with your purpose? Or not?
When you live your purpose it’s like a puzzle piece clicks into place, enabling you to see and BE part of the bigger picture. When you click into your purpose the other pieces fall into place and you naturally inspire and motivate others.
3. A Leader is someone who follows his or her purpose…and serves selflessly
This is a biggie. Leadership is service. It’s not about winning awards and titles and gaining fame and notoriety (although these things will naturally flow when you do what you love simply because you love it).
Leadership is serving without expectation or attachment to results. Do you seek external validation on whether you’re good enough? Sure, awards and recognition are great marketing but can you be proud of yourself (and your team and company) without someone else telling you how great you are?
Author, activist and Professor Charles Eistenstein talks about "Life as a Gift":
We didn't earn fresh air, we didn't earn our breath, nor the right to live. So naturally, we have a desire to give back. When we can share our gifts selflessly with the world, we are living our purpose.
Serving selflessly is living your purpose, using your unique talents and gifts toward something you love, simply because that is the purest expression of who you are. P.S. this is the secret to life.
Who comes to mind when you think about a Leader?
Hitler certainly motivated and inspired millions of people, but to commit unspeakable atrocities that are still felt today. Was he a leader? How about Gandhi?
4. A leader is someone who follows his or her purpose and serves selflessly... for the greater good
This is where I start to veer off from the traditional metrics and definitions of leadership.
But I’m not alone. Harvard Business Review's global CEO ranking recently wrote:
"Since 2015 our ranking has been based not only on financial performance but also on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings."
Jeff Bezos used to top these lists based on net worth and financial performance but since HBR implemented its revised criteria, he dropped from #1 to #87. This year he's not even on the list.
Leadership is increasingly becoming about serving the needs of our community and planet, and not just seeking profit. This is what I call being a mindful business leader.
Maybe it was knowing that my colleagues didn’t believe I deserved that promotion, or maybe I instinctively knew that by doing my best and doing good for my team everything would soon be okay. In the end, I’m grateful that so many years later I am still in touch with my old team and I’ve even convinced a few to make a trip over to our lodge in the Azores!
About the author
Rimi is a mindful leader, connecting high-performing companies and individuals to purpose. As a former management consultant and trained in various modalities of yoga, energy healing, and mindfulness, Rimi's mission is to provide tools, teachings, and experiences that elevate global consciousness.
Rimi has an M.B.A. from MIT Sloan School of Management and an engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Rimi has completed various teacher training and certifications in Forrest Yoga, Yin Yoga, Reiki, Energy Medicine, and Yoga for Trauma. This world-class education and training enable her to communicate the important message of connecting leaders to purpose in a world that needs our best and brightest to be using our talents for good.
Rimi is the co-founder of a retreat + learning center in the Azores, Portugal, and runs various leadership retreats + training live and online throughout the year. You can join Rimi's upcoming online women's leadership program at www.rootsilience.com.